Scientists finally found why in Muzaffarpur a city in India, hundreds of children die each year for no apparent reason between May and July. A study published in the scientific journal The Lancet says that a molecule present in lychees is the cause of these many deaths.
Every year at that time, children were taken to the convulsive hospital. Some even fell into a coma, according to the New York Times. And 40% of young patients died. According to the testimony of the families, the symptoms always appeared suddenly. Since 1995, researchers have explored several tracks: heat stroke, infections carried by rats, water or bats, pesticides.
Deaths halved in two years
It would be the molecule of methylene cyclopropyl-glycine contained in lychee, a fruit widely grown in this part of the country.
All the patients had consumed them while they were in hypoglycemia and under-nutrition. In this poor region, many children do not have enough to eat.
In 2015, local health authorities asked parents to make sure their children eat a meal in the evening, and to limit their consumption of lychees. In two seasons, the dead passed from several hundred to fifty, barely.
Specifically, methylene cyclopropyl-glycine, a chemical contained in litchi, plunged children, already in hypoglycemia and undernutrition, into convulsions and fatal comas. By ensuring a better diet for children, the phenomenon could be stopped permanently. But the fight against extreme poverty remains a major issue in this region, which lives mainly from agriculture.